Professor Iain Stewart to speak at Newcastle’s earth sciences convention

Newcastle will host nearly 600 delegates from the mining and geoscience communities next week at the Australian Earth Sciences Convention (AESC).

400 academics and experts in the field of earth sciences will be presenting papers and discussions on a range of topics, such as the effects of coal seam gas exploration on water tables, nuclear power in the future, carbon storage, coal in the Sydney basin, right through to using meat ants for mineral exploration.

The convention runs from Monday July 7 to Wednesday July 9 at the Newcastle City Hall, 290 King Street, opening at 8am and starting at 8:15 with keynote speaker Professor  Iain Stewart on “Between a rock and a hard place: communicating contested geoscience”.

Iain Stewart is a professor of Geoscience Communication at Plymouth University (UK), who has presented major television series for the BBC on the nature, history and state of the planet, most notably ‘Earth: The Power of the Planet’; ‘Earth: The Climate Wars’; ‘How Earth Made Us’, ‘How To Grow A Planet’; ‘Volcano Live’, and ‘Rise of the Continents’.

He regularly fronts BBC Horizon specials on geoscientific topics, such as the Japanese earthquake, the Russian meteor strike, Shale gas/ Fracking, and Florida sinkholes. 

On Monday evening the convention will host a public forum, moderated by ABC regional radio presenter Paul Bevan.

Members of the public are encouraged to bring their questions, with key topics including energy sources of the future such as geothermal, nuclear, coal seam gas, and solar biofuel made from farmed algae.

To field questions, panellists include Professor Iain Stewart; NSW Department of Trade and Investment’s Office of Coal Seam Gas director Rachael Connell; Dr Gary Ellem from the Newcastle Institute for Energy and Resources; Professor Ben Hankamer, director of the Solar Biofuels Consortium for University of Queensland; Dr Tony Irwin, technical director of the SMR Nuclear Technology Party at ANU; and Dr Alex Wonhas, director Energy Flagship at the CSIRO.

AESC public forum co-ordinator, professor Martin Van Kranendonk of the University of New South Wales, said he hopes the forum will attract a wide range of people.

“We really just want to present to the public some of the science behind alternative energy possibilities,” he said.

“People get bombarded with political controversies, but as a scientific organisation we want to present some of the options, how viable they are, and show what stage we’re at in terms of developing these things.”

Professor Kranendonk said this is the first time the convention has been held outside of a major city.

“We’re very happy about having so many delegates, the attendance is very good considering this is the first time it will be held in a regional centre.”

There will also be a series of lectures held at the Museum of Newcastle during daytimes, including presentations by Professor Mike Archer on fossil finds in the north of Queensland.

“He’s a very popular speaker, he really brings the past to life in a beautiful way,” Van Kranendonk said.

Professor Van Kranendonk will also be speaking at the museum on the subject of the early Earth, and differences between then and the Earth we know today.

Conference programs and lists of speakers can be found here.

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